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2021 FALL | HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

Fall high school sports season comes to a close with winter sports on deck

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When the Sheridan Broncs stormed the University of Wyoming’s Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium last Saturday to celebrate their victory over Rock Springs to win the Wyoming State High School Class 4A Football Championship, it brought an end to the 2021 fall sports season.

“This is amazing,” Sheridan senior lineman Chris Larson said as teammates, coaches and fans basked in the glow of the Broncs’ fifth state title in the past seven years.

It was a sentiment shared by countless student-athletes across the state as the fall sports landscape crowned 26 team champions — Lander and Green River tied for the Class 3A girls swimming title — in six sports.

And one year after state-culminating events took place at home venues (football), different sites (cross country) or on separate days (volleyball), the 2021 state championships offered a return to normalcy.

State cross country for all three classifications was held in Ethete on the Wind River Reservation, state volleyball was once again a three-day affair at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper and the state football championships returned to Laramie.

Here’s a look back at a season that began in August and crowned its first state champions on Sept. 18.

Golf

The 4A team winners were the Jackson boys, who overcame a three-stroke deficit to Kelly Walsh after the first day to win the program’s first championship since claiming the 3A title in 2012; and the Sheridan girls, who won for the first time in six years. The 4A individual winners were Sheridan’s Brock Owings and KW’s Haily Kalus.

In 3A, Riverton sophomore Parker Paxton won his second individual gold and led the Wolverines to the team title. On the girls side, Lovell’s Erika Cook also won her second consecutive championship and Wheatland grabbed its first team title.

The 2A boys field had a familiar feel as Thermopolis senior Hardy Johnson and the Bobcats both won their fourth consecutive championships. Upton’s Brooklyn Materi repeated as the individual champ and led the Bobcats to their first state title.

Tennis

Kelly Walsh dominated both the boys and girls team races.

The boys won their second consecutive title behind individual championships from Jackson Catchpole, who won No. 2 singles for the second year in a row; and the doubles teams of Parker Phillips and Drew Rasmussen (No. 1) and Alex Yakel and Owen Putnam (No. 2).

The KW girls were even more impressive as they became the first team since Gillette in 2000 to win all five titles. Senior Finley Klinger, who had finished second the past two years, completed an undefeated season to win No. 1 singles.

Also finishing atop the podium for the Trojans were Gabriella Blumberg (No. 2 singles), and the doubles teams of Avery Strand and Taylor Nokes (No. 1), Ella Catchpole and freshman Harper Klinger (No. 2) and juniors Bailey Collins and Malan Wilson (No. 3). Blumberg and all three doubles teams finished 17-0 on the season.

Cross Country

Cheyenne Central won both team championships, while Jackson (Mason Wheeler, Kate Brigham) had the two individual gold medalists in 4A.

In 3A, Mountain View’s Owen Burnett and Cody’s Ava Stafford finished atop the podium and led their teams to state championships. It was the first for the Buffalos and the third in a row for the Fillies.

The 2A boys winner was Saratoga’s Grant Bartlett for the third year in a row. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they lost a tiebreaker to Rocky Mountain for the team title. The Saratoga girls did win the program’s first title since 2009 while Tongue River’s Maddy Hill was the individual winner.

Girls Swimming

The Laramie girls won the 4A title for the fifth year in a row while Lander and Green River tied for the top spot in 3A.

Gillette’s Berkeley Christensen capped an outstanding prep career with two individual titles (200 IM, 100 fly) and two relay golds for the Camels. Cheyenne Central’s Kira Brownell also won two events (50 free, 100 back).

Green River freshman Tanith Smith won both the 50 free and 100 back and also swam on two winning relay teams for the Wolves. Cody’s Tara Joyce was also a two-event winner, touching first in the 200 free and setting a state record in the 100 free.

Volleyball

Laramie was the only team to defend its title as the Plainsmen defeated Kelly Walsh for the second consecutive year in the 4A championship match.

In 3A, Lyman defeated rival and defending champ Mountain View in five sets to win its first title since 2018. Big Horn also won a five-set thriller to end Sundance’s two-year reign atop 2A. It was the eighth year in a row a team from the Northeast Conference claimed the 2A crown. And in 1A, Kaycee ended Cokeville’s four-year run with a four-set victory to win it all for the first time since 2010.

Football

Sheridan added to its trophy case, claiming the program’s 28th state championship and improving to 7-2 all-time at War Memorial.

Cody (3A) and Lyman (2A) both completed undefeated seasons and repeated as state champions with victories over Jackson and Lovell, respectively. For Cody, which played its first game in 1921, it marked the first time in program history the Broncs went undefeated and won back-to-back titles.

“I have never had a feeling like this,” Cody senior lineman Daniel Gorman said. “We are a team. We have so many individual identities, but when we come together we only have one identity.”

Lyman extended the state’s longest winning streak to 19 games.

Shoshoni defeated Rocky Mountain to win the 1A/9-man title. It was the first 1A/9-man game ever played at The War and was the Wranglers’ first state championship since 1985.

And Snake River finished atop 1A/6-man for the second time in three years with a victory over Encampment.

Looking ahead

Practices have already begun for some of the winter sports, with the first games/meets scheduled for next month. For now, though, take a break, spend some time with family and friends, and enjoy the holiday season.

When the state basketball championships conclude March 12 in Casper, 16 more team champions, and numerous individual champs, will have been crowned. And we’ll do this all again before the spring season starts.

Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @wyovarsity

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Sports editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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